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Programming: What It Is and Why Anyone Can Do It

Software developers, computer programmers, iOS engineers ... whatever title they go by at work, it's safe to say "coders" are today's rock stars. So much so you probably know many of them by name: Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Marisa Mayer (Yahoo), Chris Bosh (The Miami Heat).

But while the programming industry has become sexy and mainstream, with plenty of lucrative job opportunities, it still lacks one thing: skilled employees. 

In this video, the team at Hour of Code sat down with the magic makers to find out what programming is and why anyone can do it.  

This video was produced by Hour of Code, a nationwide initiative by Computer Science Education Week and to introduce millions of students to computer science and computer programming.

What is programming?

Just like we use instructions to play a board game, computer programs and mobile apps rely on instructions to operate. These instructions are known as source code. Source code is written by programmers in languages such as C++, Java, and Objective-C.

Writing a computer program is both creative and logical. Much like designing a tree house, or choreographing a dance, when a programmer writes a new computer program they must break down the project into a sequence of steps. Some call programming a form of engineering, while others argue it is art.

"The stuff that computer programs are made out of is ideas and imagination,” explains George Driscoll, head of the programming department at North Lake College. “And there is no limit to your imagination.”

How are programs used?

Today computer programs help us tackle everyday responsibilities — ​from corresponding and sending mail, to shopping, banking, travel, and even job searching. Computer programs solve problems while also allowing users to complete tasks more efficiently.

To write a computer program, students must first learn a new language. Every college is unique in choosing which computer language to teach students first, but the most popular choices among educational institutions are Python, Java, MATLAB, C, C++, and Scheme. Among job boards, that hierarchy changes, with job postings asking for skills in various flavors of C (including C++ and C#) and Java.

Among mobile app companies, employers may look for device-specific languages on your resume, such as Swift (a language created by Apple to create mobile apps).

Is programming for me?

It’s been said that a program will always do what you tell it to do, and sometimes what you want to do. The trick then, says Driscoll, is to learn how to tell it to do what you want it to do.

"Programming is not for everyone,” Professor Driscoll explains, “But you have to try it first to see if it’s a fit for you. You will never know until you try.”

So where can interested students try out programming? Driscoll recommends the hands-on class “Programming, Logic, and Design,” also known as “ITSE 1429.” It is offered at all seven colleges of DCCCD. This foundational course teaches students to write a program for a computer in C++. Once they have mastered the fundamentals of programming, students are asked to apply their knowledge to control a robot’s movement through a series of challenges. The course also prepares students for object-oriented programming, a type of programming paradigm often used in modern programming languages.

Learn to Code

Do you want to build cool stuff? Influence tech? Change the world?

Learn to code!

The colleges of DCCCD offer classes, certificates and degrees that can help you build your coding skills (also known as "programming skills"). You can learn to create, design, write and update computer programs or software using programming languages such as C, Objective-C, C++, C#, Java and Visual Basic.NET. 

You can build your programming skills by taking a few classes (credit or non-credit), earning a certificate or finishing your associate degree. From there you can move straight into the workforce, or transfer to a four-year college or university to major in Computer Science. Many students choose to transfer and continue their studies. This advanced problem-solving allows graduates to become fluent in additional programming languages before seeking employment.

What’s the industry outlook?

There is currently a shortage of skilled programmers. The U..S Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that between 2012 and 2022 there will be 1.4 million job openings in computer science, but only 400,000 graduates will qualify for those jobs. Job prospects are best for programmers who have knowledge of a variety of programming languages.